Squeeze the Day.

Posted by Emily Cummins

10463603_10203641673818278_5819124083382896835_o With moving to a new place comes a laundry list of new things: new vehicle registration, new doctors offices, new dentists, new friends, new favorite restaurants, new grocery stores, new gas stations, new everything. My strategy over the last few months has been to tackle all of the “new” items one check mark at a time. A few weeks ago, the time came to tackle the “find a doctor” item on my to do list. So I did my research, asked a few friends, and landed on my best choice. I dialed the number, made an appointment, and put a nice big check mark next to that line item. Check. One more item off the list.

And then I got sick.

And not just sick, but down-for-the-count, can’t-get-out-of-bed, losing-track-of-days kind of sick. By the time the day of my appointment rolled around, I couldn’t have been happier to have tackled that to do list item the week before. I walked into my new doctor’s office, conquered paperwork, went through the initial examinations, and then waited for the doctor’s diagnosis.

“I’d like to get some x-rays and blood work done to check this out a little further,” came her steady reply. “I think you potentially passed a kidney stone and I want to see if you have any other stones. You can get the x-ray taken care of today, and tackle the blood work tomorrow.”

X-rays. No problem. That’s practically like taking a nap. But blood work? Yikes. That wasn’t something I was prepared for. Let me explain why…

In 2009, I had orthognathic jaw surgery. In a memorable turn of events, the surgery didn’t go quite as planned and post-operation, I ended up in the ER dehydrated with nurses attempting to get an IV in my system. They tried 16 times before having any success. Just about every vein in my body was jabbed and poked as I pleaded with my own skin to cooperate. The final attempt happened to be in the veins in my neck. I vividly remember being positioned so that my body was upside-down, blood rushing to my head, and the nurse trying to secure an IV needle. I don’t think I’ve ever screamed as much as I did in those few moments. At one point, I remember my Dad, staring straight into my eyes, saying, “Emily, pretend you’re somewhere else. You’re on a beach! You’re on Sanibel Island. We’re walking there right now!” I could only look angrily as the pain continued. Finally, a baby needle was brought out and a vein in my hand decided to cooperate. Fast-forward back to 2014.

As soon as I heard the words “blood work” escape my doctor’s mouth, I couldn’t help but re-live the adventure I just described above. And believe me, that’s no walk down memory lane. It’s more like a sprint through nightmare avenue. My body tensed as I mentally made note of everything I needed to take care of. Pick up my medication at the Pharmacy. Check. Get x-rays done. Check. Buy a ton of cranberry juice. Check. Ask my Dad how to survive kidney stones. Check, check, check. Get blood work taken care of. I don’t want to say check.

But this was something I had to do.

So early the next day, my roommate and I made the trek back to the doctor’s office for my dreaded blood work. I was nervous. My palms were sweating. I wanted to cry. All I could envision was the nurse hanging me upside-down and drawing blood from my neck. The fear was real. I wanted to escape. And then my name was called. The moment had come. I walked back and took a seat. As the typical “find a vein” search started, I stared fearfully at Shelby and asked her to hold my hand. She tried to take my mind off of it as the nurse said, “Here we go.” And it just happened. I felt a tiny prick. But it happened. There was no pain, no second tries, no hanging me upside down. It worked. My baby veins conquered my blood work. I stared fear in the face and won. And after winning, I celebrated with a smoothie and the reminder to “squeeze” the day. It only seemed fitting.

The night before having my blood work done, I was on the phone with my parents, talking through the events of the week and my Dad said something that really resonated with me: “Emily, you’re not in the same condition that you were in back in 2009. You’re in a different place. You were dehydrated when they couldn’t find your veins. Now, you’re not.”

This may seem like a stretch to you, but to me, a light bulb went off. There is pain, grief, shame and sorrow in my past that I don’t want to revisit. There are moments in life when I felt like I was hung upside-down, screaming in pain, angry at myself or the decisions of those around me. Sometimes thinking back to those situations, people, and places makes me feel the pain all over again. I don’t want to look at the dehydrated moments of my life. I want to run full-steam ahead.

But sometimes we have to face our fear, our pain, and our shame and choose to conquer it in order to move forward. Here’s what I’m learning to embrace: I was in a different place emotionally, spiritually, physically and mentally in the moments of my past that bring me pain. The decisions I made then stem from a dehydrated heart, a heart not choosing to be the woman God made me to be. I’ve found healing from my past hurts, habits and hang-ups by nourishing my soul—replenishing that which was dead with the life-giving water of Jesus. I’m not that broken-down girl who made the decisions I’m ashamed of anymore. I’m forgiven. I’m free. I’m redeemed. And I am whole.

That being said, I don’t have to be terrified looking at my past. I don’t need to be nervous, scared or ashamed when I walk into a place that reminds me of past decisions, or see an individual that makes me think of past hurt. I can stare at my pain and conquer it because I’m not that girl anymore. I’m changing, growing, healing, and becoming who God made me to be.

You see, sometimes we just have to stare at our pain head-on in order to discover healing and breakthrough. And please hear me: I’m not saying to be unwise here. It would be foolish of us to deliberately walk into unsafe, unhealthy situations that could cause us harm or stunt the growth God is doing in us. I’m talking about situations and circumstances outside of our control: memories, flashbacks, people, and the healing process itself. Healing takes time. It takes a whole lot of prayer. And it takes the courage to face your fears.

I’m thankful I’m not the same girl from 2009 who was so dehydrated that it took 16 tries before the 17th IV needle stuck. I’m thankful I was able to look fear in the face now and have blood work done without being hung upside-down.

I’m thankful I’m not the same girl who made those mistakes she wishes she could forget. Now, quite honestly, I’m finally coming to a place where I actually believe it’s ok to not be ok. And it’s ok to make mistakes. Perhaps the biggest mistakes and some of my deepest pain will be how I can help people the most. If anything, my biggest mistakes and deepest pain and shame have helped me discover more of who Emily is—and isn’t—than ever before. As a result, I’ve learned more about God’s grace in a way I never imaged, and I’m finally beginning to believe that shame doesn’t define me. The internal battles and fearful war can end because I’m not that same girl anymore. I’m a girl who can stare fear in the face and win. I think it’s time for us to stand up and squeeze the day.

Pushing Pause.

Posted by Emily Cummins

d25a0dcebf9782dcf8797bcb2d9f7d94

The day started early and stayed constantly busy. You know those days when you cross one project off the to-do list and suddenly five more projects seem to take its place? I experienced that somewhat yesterday. Accomplishment feels great, and learning new aspects in areas of expertise is extremely rewarding. But, last night I just couldn’t sleep. It’s like that phenomenon of your brain working, working, working, and then trying to shut it off, but it just won’t power down…and all that coffee that kept me on my toes during the day probably wasn’t working in my favor when I tried to go to sleep…

So, in my sleepless hours, my mind drifted. It’s scanned the contents of the day…things I learned, things I experienced, what I threw my passion into. And it drifted to several verses that I started my day with.

Open up before God, keep nothing back; He’ll do whatever needs to be done: He’ll validate your life in the clear light of day and stamp you with approval at high noon. Quiet down before God, be prayerful before Him. Don’t bother with those who climb the ladder, who elbow their way to the top. (Psalm 37:5-7, the Message)

Before yesterday even began to fill up, God whispered the importance of being still in His presence into the deepest chambers of my heart. He spoke truth into my very being that would become the confidence I would need throughout the day. Before I even attempted a single project, God said that He would empower me & validate my life–but I had to do something to get there…I had to choose to quiet down in the midst of busyness and be prayerful before Him.

Looking back over the contents of yesterday, I can’t help but wonder if I truly took this advice. I did to an extent, but not enough to make me truly thrive. I talked to God throughout the day, but I didn’t allow myself to get quiet enough to hear the confidence He was breathing into my soul. I can talk all day long, but if I don’t allow His words to permeate my being, I’ve really gained nothing but a loss of words. Yes, talking to God is important, but listening to what He says is equally–if not more–important.

Tonight, as I allow my mind to slowly drift to sleep, my prayer is that tomorrow I will choose to embrace putting an intentional halt on the busy moments of life so that I can be prayerful before the One who gave me those moments in the first place.

How do you intentionally halt the busy moments of life to be quiet & listen?

 

5 Challenges that Every Woman in Ministry Goes Through.

Posted by Linda Seidler

5 Challenges

Years ago, before planting our church, my husband, Tim, and I led a traveling ministry. We started out as starry-eyed, Jesus-loving, zealous believers, who were excited with anticipation to offer these amazing events filled with fun and joy-filled moments while at the same time attempting to introduce the world to Jesus with a team of other starry-eyed, Jesus-loving, zealous ministry friends.

What we anticipated for the events was on target. Jesus was the central message, and life-change happened within people’s hearts at each and every event.

What we didn’t anticipate, however, were the aspects of ministry that happened between the events. For those of us in churches, this encompasses the 6 days between our weekend worship experiences.

I term this–‘ministry in the trenches’, where most of our battles takes place–the situations and circumstances we combat behind-the-scenes as we lead and pastor our churches.

This is the place where we experience deep hurt and intense loneliness. It’s the place where, along with our spouses, we make that decision to forge ahead no matter what obstacle or challenge comes our way. It’s the place where we feel we may bottom out and crash and burn if we don’t get a break soon. And sadly, it’s the place where many ministry leaders will begin to second guess and question their calling.

Ministry in the trenches is where we get through the tough stuff, and I’m certain, as a leader in ministry, that you know this place quite well. I know I do.

I’ve heard it said, “Knowledge is power”. And when we know what may challenge us, we can seek God for the strength to get through.

So as you read the following 5 challenges that every woman in ministry goes through, continue to keep reminding yourself…”I can get through the tough stuff”.

1) Your heart will be broken.

People will leave your church. Some of those closest to you will turn on a dime. Even the ones who have high-fived and fist-bumped you in the beginning will suddenly stop volunteering with no explanation. And you may never understand why, so…Keep reminding yourself…”I can get through the tough stuff.”

(Read Psalm 34:18)

2) You will have challenging seasons in your marriage and family.

Leading a church full-time is comparable to leading a second family. And with this commitment comes time away with regularly scheduled meetings and unexpected visits to the hospital and phone calls requiring you to counsel on a moment’s notice. Schedules are packed, and you haven’t had a sit-down family dinner in a month. It will always be a balancing act, so…Keep reminding yourself…”I can get through the tough stuff.”

(Read Ecclesiastes 4:12)

3) You will make mistakes. 

You and I are perfectly imperfect (my new mantra). And we will never get it exactly right.  We will hurt people’s feelings without knowing it.  We’ll neglect to return a phone call. You will forget to send a thank you note to that person who helped you for endless hours complete the event deadline, so… Keep reminding yourself…”I can get through the tough stuff.”

(Read Philippians 3:12)

4) There will be days when you will want to quit.

You’ll get tired.  Hours of work will be spent toward the goal, and the results seem minimal. There will be moments when it feels like no one cares. You can become discouraged and depressed. And just when you feel like you are ready to take a deep breath, the wind gets knocked out of you again because people are talking negatively about you, so…Keep reminding yourself…”I can get through the tough stuff.”

(Read Galatians 6:9)

5) You will have to forgive over and over and over again.

How many times? Over, and over, and over, and over, and then, over and over again. So just…Keep reminding yourself…”I can get through the tough stuff.”

(Read Matthew 18:21)

Please share with us…What challenges have you faced?  What helps you get through the tough stuff?

The Shame Game.

Posted by Joy Cannis

Y’all, the holidays are rapidly approaching. Are you ready for this…there are 9 more Saturdays until Christmas. We are being plunged into that time of year when patience is low, demands are high and sleep doesn’t fit on our to-do list.

There’s a reason why multiple case studies show that addiction is the highest during the holiday season. It’s the most difficult time to stay sober. I think in part because we’re surrounded by people who trigger all kinds of emotions. It’s also a time when everything around us says we should be feeling a certain way. For those of us who have always bucked up against conformity, we don’t like for people or things to tell us how to feel.

Yesterday, October 19th, by the grace of God, I reached my 12th year of sobriety. I am now a productive member of society (most days). The road was long and filled with twists, turns and dead ends. There were a lot of tears and pleading with my Higher Power. There was uncertainty among the rubble of my indiscretion. There were times when I felt hopeless.

And then something changed. Have you noticed how everything starts with a decision?

I made a conscious decision to fill my mind with truth and courage. I stopped entertaining deception and falsehood. When I didn’t believe the truth of who I am and that I’m made in the image of God, I would repeat it over and over throughout the day, “God, I belong to you. Thank you that I belong to you. Thank you that darkness has no power over my mind, heart, body and soul. Protect me from evil and all who promote it. Keep me safely in your will.

Love hands Do you know someone exploring the possibility that they may have a problem with alcohol, food, drugs, pornography, sex, money…anything that is hindering them from living out their purpose? Maybe you’re the one struggling? Please know that you’re not alone in your struggle. There are literally thousands of us around you. We are in your congregation, your women’s Bible study, on your tennis team. We are moms and grandmothers. We are leaders. We are wives.

It’s time to stop playing the shame game and lay it down where it belongs…at the foot of the cross, where Jesus himself proclaimed, “It. Is. Finished.

Hope heart My prayer, in this moment, is that God will intervene and direct our thinking…that we will find purpose in this coming season of busyness and overspending…that we will seek out someone who needs our help and become so caught up in helping others that we don’t have time to entertain the lies that blind.

A couple of excellent resources involving two of my favorite communicators on the planet, Jud Wilhite and Mike Foster are, People of the Second Chance (@POTSC on Twitter) and CentralOnline. Please direct people here who need a community of hope and healing.

For download:

Prayer

You-Follow Me.

Posted by Tamera Ford

image As my nine year old would say, “If you’ve ever had an emotional response that moved you to the point of saying something you shouldn’t have, raise your hand.”

Both my hands are raised right now. My feet too.

Do you know who else could raise his hand? The Apostle Peter.

Peter was often moved by his strong emotions, blurted out without thinking about what he was saying and usually ended up getting corrected by Jesus. But, Jesus also loved Peter.  Even in all of Peters faults, He saw something in him.  Jesus knew Peter would deny him three times the night he was taken captive.  Peter didn’t believe he would do it, but he did.  Carrying around the memory of denying his Lord must have been a heavy burden, a huge regret.  How was he to move forward from this kind of mistake?

Jesus, in his mercy and love came to Peter and the disciples and made a point to restore Peter.  We see this in John 21:15-19, “After breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” “Yes, Master, you know I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.” He then asked a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” “Yes, Master, you know I love you.” Jesus said, “Shepherd my sheep.”  Then he said it a third time: “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was upset that he asked for the third time, “Do you love me?” so he answered, “Master, you know everything there is to know. You’ve got to know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Feed my sheep. I’m telling you the very truth now: When you were young you dressed yourself and went wherever you wished, but when you get old you’ll have to stretch out your hands while someone else dresses you and takes you where you don’t want to go.” He said this to hint at the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. And then he commanded, “Follow me.”

Three times Peter denied Jesus, three times Jesus restored Peter. Our Lord is gracious, compassionate and understanding. He never leaves us to wallow in our mistakes. He is there to restore us to himself. And, not only restore us but put us on the path of His great plan for our lives.  Jesus restored Peter then told him three times, “feed my sheep!” Jesus called Peter into the ministry of feeding the people the word of God and caring for them. Jesus also revealed a part of Peter’s future.

Peter had much to think about and focus on. His relationship had been restored, the weight removed, a call given and prophecy concerning his future spoken, what did Peter do next?  Peter, like so many of us, became distracted from what the Lord was saying to Him.  In verse 20-21, “Turning his head, Peter noticed the disciple Jesus loved following right behind. When Peter noticed him, he asked Jesus, “Master, what’s going to happen to him?” (Referring to John)

Jesus, the perfect teacher, responded in verses 22-23 saying, “If I want him to live until I come again, what’s that to you? You—follow me.”

Ouch!  I’ve received instruction from the Lord and shortly there after become distracted and headed in a different direction too. What did Jesus tell Peter? YOU—follow me. In the ministry, it’s SO easy to get distracted by others and spend much more time than we should wondering “what’s going to happen to them?”

What has the Lord told you to do? What instruction has he given you concerning your life and ministry? Don’t allow yourself to get distracted and detour from Gods instruction. YOU, follow HIM!

And, if you have been carrying around guilt feeling condemned over a mistake you have made, today is the day to let the Lord restore you. He loves you. Get back up and carry on. He has a plan for your life and your mistakes can only hold you back if you allow them. Receive God’s forgiveness today!

God has a beautiful, amazing and interesting plans for each of our lives. Let’s not allow condemnation and distraction keep us from experiencing His best!

Father, Thank you for loving me so much that you made a way for all my sins and shortcomings to be forgiven. I receive your forgiveness today and thank you for restoring me. I will rejoice that I am free from that burden. You love me and I love you. As I walk in fellowship and you speak to me concerning the plan you have for my life, I will stay focused. I will not be distracted or detoured. Help me to stay on course by your Spirit and your word. In Jesus name, AMEN!